Peshawar, July 10 (Reuters): Movie comic turned adventure traveller Michael Palin wound up a visit to rugged northern Pakistan today, saying it felt as safe as London and he was saddened by western governments’ terror warnings.
Palin, a star of British cult comedy Monty Python and movies such as A Fish Called Wanda, travelled to the remote mountainous northern areas bordering Afghanistan to film a new travel series to be released in the latter part of next year.
He journeyed through North West Frontier Province, where an Islamist government is accused of trying to implement fundamentalist policies reminiscent of the Taliban regime.
After a US-led coalition overthrew the Taliban in 2001, Pakistan saw a series of bloody attacks on Western targets blamed on Islamic radicals and many governments warned against visiting. Palin said in Peshawar that he felt continued advice against travel to Pakistan was a “great shame”.
“I think there is a tendency now since 9/11 to marginalise countries, to polarise countries to those that you can trust and those that you can’t,” he said. “I think it is as safe here in Pakistan as you are in London in many ways,” he said.
Obviously you have to take precautions if you go to certain areas, but as far as we are concerned, we have had nothing but help and cooperation.” Palin said he was struck by the great hospitality, an important tradition in Muslim countries, and those who stayed away were missing out. “People have been quite curious about us and what we are doing and where we come from and what our attitudes are to the world and what has gone on recently,” he said.
In the past week, Palin journeyed through the magnificent Hindu Kush mountain range to the northeast of Peshawar.
“The mountains are absolutely extraordinary. This is the most striking and tremendous mountain scenery I think I have ever seen in my life,” he said. “I think not only are people missing a very beautiful and very interesting country, but if we are being polarised by governments to stay away from each other, then we don’t get a chance to learn from each other.” On Monday, Britain’s foreign office eased its warning against non-essential travel to Pakistan, but recommended against holidays by those without family in the country, saying Britons, especially of Western origin, remained terrorist targets. The US, which is leading a global war on terror, still advises its citizens to defer travel to Pakistan. Palin’s previous travel projects have included a voyage, Around the World in 80 Days, emulating Jules Verne’s fictional adventurer Phileas Fogg, and another from Pole to Pole.